ABBOTT PARK, Ill.—In a move to extend drug discovery efforts for their companies into disease targets where traditional discovery technologies have not been successful, Abbott and Dharmacon Inc., a unit of Fisher Biosciences, have entered into a collaboration to develop new therapeutic agents based on RNAi.
"Joining forces with RNAi pioneer Dharmacon to develop drug candidates that harness the clinical potential of this revolutionary technology fits our strategy to extend Abbott's portfolio with novel therapies in areas of high unmet need," said Dr. Stephen Fesik, divisional vice president for cancer research at Abbott, in a news release about the deal.
During the collaboration, the companies will work to identify therapeutic short-interfering RNAs (siRNAs) for multiple therapeutic areas, initially focusing on oncology. Lafayette, Colo.-based Dharmacon will employ its proprietary siRNA chemistries, SMARTselection and SMARTpool technologies, and its specificity-enhancing design modifications to optimize siRNAs for therapeutic use. Abbott will manage the drug discovery and development process and will be responsible for commercialization of products that result from the collaboration. The companies did not release the exact financial terms of the deal.
Although cancer is the initial focus, that could change as time goes on, says Dr. Bill Kohlbrenner, director of cancer research in Abbott's drug discovery area and head of the therapeutic siRNA group at Abbott, the group collaborating directly with Dharmacon.
"If the program is successful, and depending on what information we uncover by deploying this technology in oncology, we may find opportunities in other therapeutic areas," he says.
Abbott has worked with Dharmacon in the past as part of efforts to be an "early mover" in using RNA technologies for target validations, Kohlbrenner says. Having already established that the two companies had complementary styles, it made sense to work with them on this effort.
Much of what Dharmacon will do for its part of the work is to use its expertise in predicting potential off-target effects of candidates and to profile their specificity. Then the company will make the molecules more drug-like, as well as develop novel delivery technologies to deliver siRNAs into various tissues, according to Dr. William S. Marshall, group vice president of technology and business development for Dharmacon's parent company, Fisher Biosciences.